Presented without comment, except to say that you should click through at the bottom and read the whole thing.
At this point, I should be used to seeing backlash against Emma Sulkowicz, but I still wasn’t fully prepared for what came this week: endless tittering of people around me in real life and in my social feeds saying they “weren’t sure” about Emma’s choice to carry her mattress to Columbia’s graduation; the insistence that Emma’s alleged assailant Paul Nungesser had been “proven innocent” by Columbia and exonerated by the NYPD; the posters someone put up around Columbia with Emma’s picture on them, calling her a “PRETTY LITTLE LIAR.”
Every time I read another version of this narrative—that Nungesser merely “picked the wrong friends,” that the complaints against him were a calculated vendetta—my stomach flopped. Don’t forget: before he appealed away the conviction, Paul Nungesser was found responsible for sexually assaulting a woman at Columbia. And I’m writing this because that woman was me.
When I filed the complaint against Paul, I didn’t know it would turn into a national event. It was over a year before Emma started carrying that weight, months before what happened at Columbia helped sparked a national dialogue about rape on college campus. I was just trying to do the right thing.
The incident happened my junior year at Columbia, when Paul followed me upstairs at a party, came into a room with me uninvited, closed the door behind us, and grabbed me. I politely said, “Hey, no, come on, let’s go back downstairs.” He didn’t listen. He held me close to him as I said no, and continued to pull me against him. I pushed him off and left the room quickly. I told a few friends and my boyfriend at the time how creepy and weird it was. I tried to find excuses for his behavior. I did a decent job of pushing it out of my mind.
Then, a year later, a friend approached me and asked if we could speak privately. She told me she’d heard that Paul had apparently raped someone, and that the story had reminded her of what he had done to me a year before. (At the time, I didn’t know that the woman he had allegedly raped was Emma, although I eventually found out: several friends who didn’t know about my incident with Paul told me as word spread and the weeks went on.)
My friend gave me the name and number of someone at Columbia I could talk to if I wanted to file a complaint. I wondered if what had happened between me and Paul was really sexual assault: there was no penetration, I had no bruises, I got away. But Columbia defines “Sexual Assault—Non-Consensual Sexual Contact” as “Any intentional sexual touching, however slight, with any object without a person’s consent.” That is exactly what happened to me, and so I decided to file a complaint.
There is a narrative spreading that pins me as “Friend of Mattress Girl,” filing a sexual assault complaint as part of a weird collusion among girlfriends. This narrative is entirely false. At the time, Emma and I were friendly; however, we were never friends. We had never hung out one-on-one and I’d never had her number in my phone. I also never knew the identity of Paul’s ex-girlfriend, who also filed a complaint against him, until two separate reporters let her name slip while interviewing me—assuming, maybe, that I knew her. But I didn’t. I still don’t even know what she looks like or what her last name is.